Desert Regional nurses among those planning informational picket

It’s the third year of a pandemic that has led to overflowing hospitals and overworked healthcare professionals. Now, local nurses are once again sounding the alarm over what they call dangerous understaffing. 

At issue: Registered nurses at Desert Regional Medical Center and eight other hospitals are planning to hold informational pickets Wednesday to bring attention to understaffing and high turnover at Tenet Healthcare Corp. facilities.

  • The nurses are represented by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United which says the hospital has lost 137 nurses since the pandemic started and that most of the nurses hired between 2019 and 2021 quit because of unsustainable workplace conditions.

    • The union also accuses Tenet hospitals of mishandling rest and meal breaks and paying nurses penalty wages to sacrifice their breaks instead of hiring more nurses. 

    • Nurse Laura Bruce: “For the past two years, Tenet Healthcare has failed to prepare for the pandemic, prioritizing its profits over its responsibility to provide safe patient care.”

  • Desert Regional Group Marketing Director Richard Ramhoff contests that framing, saying Tenet is doing everything it can to keep the hospital well-staffed, including hiring traveling nurses and working to recruit more permanent staff.

The bigger picture: The nurse’s concerns are not a trend unique to our valley. Nationwide, nurses have been quitting in droves.

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  • More than 500,000 RNs are expected to retire by the end of this year, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the need for 1.1 million new RNs to avoid a shortage. 

  • It’s not just overwork and understaffing that is leading to nurses leaving the industry. An American Association of Critical-Care Nurses survey reports 76% of critical care nurses say they’ve been threatened verbally and physically by unvaccinated patients. 

  • Like housing inequality and wage stagnation, the pandemic has hastened what was already a crisis before 2020. As retirees outpaced new nurses, watchdogs were already calling for more nurses before the first Covid case was even reported in the country. 

What to expect: Nurses and supporters will be outside Desert Regional starting at 8 a.m. A hospital spokesperson says all facilities will operate normally during the picket.

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